Alois Lecoque was born in Prague in 1891 as Alois Kahout. His father, an engineer specializing in the regulation of rivers and hydraulic stations, wanted him to follow in his footsteps but Alois wanted to be an artist and his father wisely assented. After six years of formal study at Prague's Real Schule, he went to Zagreb to study at the Art Institute under Professor Crncic. There he mastered the technique of capturing scenic objects in effervescent color. Alois Kahout was such an outstanding student who applied himself assiduously that he left the institute with high honors. So pleased was his father that he agreed to allow his son the dream for opportunity to go to Paris where the art world was in such an excited ferment.
In Paris he attended the Academie Julian studying under professors Baschet, Emile Bernard and others who were highly respected by the Post Impressionist school of painting. Kahout now became Lecoque - the French name for Rooster, which had the same meaning in the Czech language. Renoir, the great master took a liking to the young artist and taught him many of his secrets; predicting that his drive and originality would one day make him famous. Establishing his own studio in "La Ruche des Artistes" located in the famed Vauguirard quarter, he met and became friends with many artists whose works have since achieved world acclaim, including the sculptor Zadkine, Miossi Kogan, Modigliani, Soutine and many others. In 1913, his works were exhibited at the Anglo German Exhibition at the Crystal Palace in London.
But World War I exploded and so did Lecoque's high style of living. He spent the war years in Prague because of a medical exemption, and the Austrian government realized that it was better to keep such a famous painter home than to send him to the front. Meanwhile Lecoque endured an unhappy marriage and left Prague in 1920 to journey to Algiers at the invitation of his friend Dinet in Bou - Sada, deep in the heart of the Sahara desert. He remained for two years in different places of North Africa and then his restless soul compeled him to return to Paris, which he loved and missed intensely. There - at the Rue Jacob - Lecoque concentrated on scenes of the Siene River, the Cathedral of Notre Dame and the interesting bridges.
However, Emile Bernard longed for his company and beckoned him to Venice. On the Canal Rio del Piombo he occupied a studio in one of the palaces and here he settled down to serious work. Evenings were spent in the company of Emile Bernard, the Russian painter Resrodni and the Italian poet, Luigi Gentina. They debated politics, art, women, and not necessarily in that order. One of his crowning achievements was capturing vividly a few gondolas lazily moving over the surface of the Canale Grande, while white snow fell over the Bysantine-like rooftops. This and other paintings were accepted for the exhibit in the Biennale of Venice in 1926 and again in 1928. But as much as he enjoyed Venice, Lecoque had to depart hastily, due to his innocent involvement in a plot to assassinate Benito Mussolini.
That same morning, one of the Partisan women came to bring Lecoque food. Under her shawl she was hiding a machine gun and a large rusted can with some cooked vegetables for him. When Lecoque went to the cell with all the forty three Partisans he noticed that inside the can were three hand grenades. As he did not know how to handle the grenades he learned that his companions had also received various weapons and in this way he was able to exchange the grenades for a Mauser pistol. Then Lecoque called for help and the guard came. When he opened the door Lecoque forced him inside, pressing his gun to the guard's chest, he ordered him to call the other guard. Lecoque promised him he would live providing he followed Lecoque's orders explicitly. They immediately handed over their guns as well as the entire prison arsenal, which Lecoque distributed amongst his fellow partisans. Then, well armed, they all escaped to a medieval tower where they waited until all the Germans had left the city.
Dubrovnik, was already occupied by partisans, and they were more than happy to see Lecoque and his fellows alive. They had feared for their lives. Thus with Guile, audacity, genius and multi-language as his arsenal, Lecoque managed to keep his neck intact while his poetic elegance expressed itself in the innumerable canvasses he managed to paint. Finally in the Fall of 1944, the Partisan's whom he had aided in their battled against the Germans, spirited him aboard a Naval vessel in the harbor of Split. It took him to the harbor of Bari in Southern Italy, now in the hands of the Allies. From there an American truck convoy took him to Rome where he was joyously received by the Czechoslovakian Legation.
His commanding presence and flair for dramatic expression caught the eye of the famed movie director, Carmen Galloni, and he won a role in the motion picture Avanti a lui tremava tuta Roma. His role was that of General Melzer, in charge of the Nazi occupation of Rome. Ironic indeed for the man who strenuously fought the Nazis. The great Italian actress, Anna Magnani, who starred in the film, profusely commended his performance and they became good friends. The picture was highly successful at the box office and brought Lecoque new friends and funds that enabled him to live in a spacious villa on the enchanting Isles of Capri. He settled down there for a while to paint and host elaborate parties.
But the Gods of Adversity had other plans for Lecoque. A hard core of Fascist carry-overs attained some influence in the shaky Italian Government, and Lecoque's alleged part in the attempted assassination plot against Mussolini was not forgotten. A move was made to deport him, and he was sent to the Campo de Capua, a displaced persons camp. He could not go back to Prague which was clamped under the despotic rule of the hated Communists, who were anathema to everything he believed in and fought for. All of the property that he had in Prague was lost. Because of his age, which made immigration impossible to every country he attempted to enter, even his beloved France, he became a man without a country.
Subsequently, he went to California, and after several successful years in Laguna Beach, he settled in Los Angeles where he maintained an art gallery and frequently sponsored exhibits for other artists striving for recognition. In 1960 he gained one of the greatest treasures of his life - his American citizenship and thus his freedom to roam the world and exhibit his work in the countries of his choice.
Paris - which once refused him - welcomed him with open arms when he returned to exhibit in 1961 at the Gallerie Benezit and in 1962 at the Galerie Mercel Bernheim. Again in 1963 he exhibited at the Palais Royal Galerie in Paris and sold one of his paintings to Sir James Farmer Norton, who invited him to visit England. During his visit with Sir James he finished a large painting of Venice and several family portraits of Sir James.
From 1963 to 1970, a veritable avalanche of honors and accolades from prominent public figures including President Eisenhower, were heaped upon his still sturdy shoulders. Perhaps Jeanne Good's summation of his career might capture the richness of the man and his work with this excerpt of her critique/Analysis of Lecoque:
"Lecoque's creative inspiration has been enriched by his international life. His paintings are not without affection and resemble those of no other artist. The versatility of this prolific painter is beyond belief until you have been rewarded by viewing his works which are all over the world in public and private collections, as well as in the different places where he has painted. . ." Lecoque - Master Painter - Humanist - Freedom Fighter - Historian - Bon Vivant - and incurable romanticist and optimist. His greatness as an artist is no more outstanding then his respect for the dignity and freedom of the individual. It can truly be said of him that his work enhances mankind and his own personal life inspires us with the indominability of the human spirit!